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Bill would raise driver's license fees

Under a proposed bill, a $10 increase would help keep trauma centers open.

Under a proposed bill, a $10 increase would help keep trauma centers open.

March 10, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Maryland drivers would pay an extra $10 for their licenses in order to keep the state's network of trauma centers open, under legislation approved by a key panel Friday.

The House Health and Government Operations Committee voted to increase the driver's license renewal fee from $30 to $40 to raise $9 million for the trauma network, said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

The money would be used to help subsidize the trauma centers at Washington County Hospital and other hospitals across the state.

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Hospitals would apply to be repaid for paying trauma surgeons to be on call and taking care of uninsured and underinsured patients.

Donoghue, whose subcommittee worked on the legislation, said he was pleased that the bill is headed to the House of Delegates next week.

It will keep the doors open at rural trauma centers, which were facing shutdowns as soon as this summer.

Last summer, Washington County Hospital closed its trauma center for four months because there weren't enough surgeons to staff it around the clock.

In order to reopen the trauma center, the hospital agreed to pay surgeons $1.7 million a year in on-call costs, which cannot be recovered through hospital rates.

"Washington County Hospital turned out to be the model for the state," Donoghue said.

The legislation would cost each of the state's 3.7 million drivers less than a penny a day. Drivers must renew their licenses every five years.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, the bill's lead sponsor, had initially proposed a $2 per vehicle charge on insurance carriers.

The committee also rejected other financing options, including extra fines for drunk drivers.

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